Jayanthi Murahari writes about how one’s body clock affects the exercise routine.

The most frequently asked question is: what’s the best time to work out? There are two set of answers: one for the goal-oriented fitness enthusiast, and the other for those still prioritising other things over fitness.

The answer for the first depends on their goals. As for the second, any time is a good time as long as you work out.

Spreading one’s workout to three to five times a week is better than saving it all up for one devilish weekend session. The latter has lesser health benefits and puts the body at greater risk. Many find it difficult to stick to one particular time but doing so helps create a good habit.

How does one fix the best time to workout? Experts say the effectiveness of one’s exercise depends partly on one’s circadian rhythm as well as what exactly one is trying to get out of it. Whether it is dropping inches around the waist or adding inches around the biceps, be aware of your body clock. The best time to exercise is when you feel most awake and energetic.

Is early morning the best time to work out? Yes, if your goal is losing weight. An early morning workout — especially cardio — will help burn more fat calories. This is because the body will rely on stored fat for energy conversion. Note: The intensity should be moderate, the workout should be completely aerobic and around 60-70 per cent intensity of the Maximum Heart Rate. Also remember to spend time warming up since body temperature is low and the body will also be stiff in the morning.

Another reason why a morning workout is a good option is that it is very easy to stick to the routine this way. You won’t skip the exercise since you will be done with it before other pressures of the day begin. If you prefer exercising outdoors, the benefits of cooler temperature and the better air quality are an added bonus.

If building muscles and increasing fitness levels is the goal, then the right time to exercise is after lunch. Around six hours after waking up, the body is energised by proper nutrition and can cope with high intensity exercises. Body temperature is high and alertness and energy levels have also increased. Warmup time may not be as much as it would be during an early morning routine. For those who want to build muscles, there will be enough glycogen stores to support the explosive workout.

Some enthusiasts who hit the gym after work on their way back home feel that this is the best time to exercise because there is no pressure to get back to work.

“I am done for the day so I can give my 100 per cent while working out,” says one evening exerciser. This is fine as long as you make sure your carb resources are good especially if you’re planning to hit the weights.

Roughly after 12 hours of waking up, the body clock starts slowing down and fatigue sets in. Moreover exercising raises the body temperature and heart rate, which is not conducive to sleep. Those who want to work out in the evening should make sure they have sufficient time after the routine before hitting the bed.

If exercising has become a daily routine, then shuffle the timings to surprise the body. But if you are still in the falling-into-the-routine phase, then sticking to one time helps set the rhythm. Ultimately all this is effective only if you work out. So the best time to work out is actually the time when you work out — much better than not working out at all.